Virginia opened the season as a ranked team for the first time since 2001-02, but its stay in the Top 25 didn't last long. Its play in ACC action has helped it move back into the poll.
The 20th-ranked Cavaliers look to add to their best start in conference play in 32 seasons and match their longest league winning streak in seven years when they visit Georgia Tech on Saturday.
Virginia (18-5, 9-1) spent the first two weeks in the rankings before falling out after a 59-56 home loss to then-No. 14 VCU on Nov. 12. Following that defeat, the Cavaliers went 8-3 before getting underway in the ACC.
They've been even better in conference play, winning by an average of 13.7 points and leading by 21 or more in eight of their nine wins. The 9-1 start is the best since opening 12-1 in 1981-82, and Virginia sits one-half game behind top-ranked and undefeated Syracuse in the league.
However, the Cavaliers' last two victories didn't come easy.
Malcolm Brogdon hit a 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds remaining to lift Virginia to a 48-45 win at then-No. 18 Pittsburgh on Sunday. That victory helped the Cavaliers jump into Monday's poll, and they hosted Boston College two nights later.
Virginia led by 21 points early in the second half, but the Eagles closed within 73-67 before Brogdon wrapped up an 8-for-9 effort at the free-throw line by making all four of his attempts in the final minute of a 77-67 win.
Brogdon, who tops Virginia with 12.0 points per game, had 17 points and career highs of 11 rebounds and seven assists. The sophomore guard has scored at least 16 points in each of the last seven games.
"I feel like we came out ready to play. We played pretty well, but not really well," Brogdon said. "We did not play our best basketball tonight, but we played well enough to win the game by a considerable amount, if we hadn't let up at the end."
Since suffering its only conference loss, 69-65 at then-No. 23 Duke on Jan. 13, the Cavaliers have taken six straight in league play. They haven't won seven ACC games in a row since Jan. 16-Feb. 6, 2007.
Virginia has done it with solid defensive play, as it ranks second in the nation with 56.0 points allowed per game while holding opponents to 38.2 percent shooting.
"They're right up there at the top (of the ACC)," Boston College forward Ryan Anderson said. "I think they can make a deep run in the tournament just because of the way coach (Tony) Bennett has them playing defense."
Georgia Tech (12-11, 3-7) could be hard-pressed to break through against the Cavaliers after facing the nation's stingiest defensive team Tuesday.
The Yellow Jackets scored their fewest points in nearly two years with a 45-41 road loss to Clemson, which gives up an average of 55.0 points.
Georgia Tech, which has dropped five of seven, was without top scorer Trae Golden (14.0) and leading rebounder Robert Carter Jr. (9.3).
Coach Brian Gregory said Carter should be able to play Saturday, but Golden will be a game-time decision as the Yellow Jackets look for just their second win in the last eight meetings with the Cavaliers.
"They do not beat themselves. ... They're good," Gregory said. "You have to play extremely well to be able to compete with them."
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved